ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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COVID-19: Reinforcing the ‘Technical Fix’ and Distorting Public Health in India

The article reflects upon the possible reasons for the feeble response to the second wave of the pandemic and the consequences and limitations of the measures and policies set into motion by the state. It also looks at what lessons can be taken from history to design a feasible, scientific, humane, public health approach. 

 

Several medical practitioners from across the country extended solidarity and support to the now six-month-long farmers’ struggle for repeal of the three laws pertaining to procurement and marketing of farm produce. Once implemented, these laws will erode the income and livelihoods of farmers, as also the public distribution system and food security in the country. Thr­ough their solidarity with such a movement to safeguard livelihoods and food security, these medical practitioners are striving to uphold the core principles of public health—those of social justice as the foundation of public health, of the centrality of livelihoods, living and working conditions, incomes, for the phy­sical and mental well-being of people, of what is now labelled the “social determinants of health.” Such solidarity assumes even greater significance when seen against the responses over the past year to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a rem­inder for the government and its policymakers to look beyond eradicating a single infectious or even non-infectious disease for that matter, through technological interventions alone, and to also address the myriad other health problems, old and new, and their shared determinants as well. While the present crisis undoubtedly needs concerted att­ention, for that the larger policy issues have to be addressed now, not after the crisis “runs its course.”

The 20th century flu pandemics came in waves of two or three and the phases between the peaks were never totally free of flu, only the incidence was very low (Jefferson and Heneghan 2020; Miller et al 2009). Viral mutations, human immunological status, gene pools, population age structure and climate change following ecological destruction by human intervention determined the host virus balance or imbalance. These constituted the bioecological components while nutritional status of population groups, their movements, social contracts, social structure and poverty levels constituted the socio-economic aspects of the pandemic’s dynamics. Des­pite three major pandemics of the 20th century, it is difficult to identify one single factor that has been held primarily responsible for their decline. Yet, the approach to the COVID-19 pandemic in India has been singularly technocentric, commerciali­sed and politicised, first by official claims of control over it via a futile total lockdown and in the second wave depending entirely upon the vaccines. These strategies are at the cost of genuine efforts at public education and involvement, tran­sparency, rationality and coordination in its management. The shrinking economy and job market have accentuated the misery of the people, especially the poor.

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Updated On : 19th Dec, 2021
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